Much of the criticism surrounding the iPad has been focused on the technical characteristics of the device. Its inability to run Flash, its lack of video conferencing capabilities, its non-existent USB ports, its closed system. Its interesting no one is attacking the iPad where it counts; squarely in the usage experience. A lot of tablet manufacturers are about to find out you can stuff all the hardware do-dads in a device they want but if the user doesn’t enjoy using the device they aren’t going to buy it. Gizmodo has an interesting article today that delves into the user experience of the iPad and how that is the only selling feature that matters.
The iPad functional objective was to make the product as invisible as possible, a simple, elegant stage for the real important actors: The applications.
The iPad isn’t about the hardware as an intermediary to some other experience, the experience of using the computer. There are no input devices to get in the way, no worrying about screen resolution, operating systems, or capability. You turn it on and use the input devices nature gave you to interact with it. While most of the fretting on the PC side of the ledger is about hardware specifications, input devices, and operating systems; on the iPad side all of that falls away in favor of the applications used on the device.
Such an emphasis on simple end use and not all of the issues that get a user to end use is one of the secrets, and misunderstandings, of the iPad. Many have said Steve Jobs ignored the “wish lists” of users. Those people are absolutely right. Apple had no interest in creating another computer that required keyboards, mice, large monitors, and a plethora of ports to operate. Instead of complicating the experience, they sought to simplify it. I’ve heard it said a couple of times already that the iPad is the first computer that “gets out of the way” of the user. No complications or concerns. Simply charge the device and go.
I think then much of the criticism centers on the iPad hardware instead of the iPad experience because it’s the only frame of reference a lot of users and pundits have. We like to compare things to previous experiences and on first blush the iPad is “just another computer”. When you realize the iPad isn’t about Gigahertz, Megabytes, Megabits per second, or any of the other empirical measurements many in the tech media use as a ruler, you open yourself to the notion it’s about the experience. And to Apple, this is all about the experience. If you grab an iPad in an Apple Store and are thoroughly blown away by the experience, you won’t care how much internal memory it has. That is the genius of the iPad and that is the genius of Apple.
Have you had a chance to partake in the iPad experience? Were you impressed by it without the need to ask about technical specifications? Do you find Apple’s tendency to focus on the user experience to be a positive or negative? Leave us a comment and let us know.